When I was a kid I remember a book by the side of the toilet. It was in the basket with the Readers Digest and Good Housekeeping magazines that were available for those moving experiences that only happen in the bathroom. Something to pick up, read and relax with so your bowels would get a move on. This book was called “Winning the Age Game” written by Gloria Heidi, a Hollywood insider who had the scoop on how to dress younger, put your make- up on so you would look younger, what hairstyle worked for “youthening”, and topics to speak on that keep you “in the game.” It was, in one of my favorite words, “Fascinating.” My mom liked it so much that she gave one to me when I got married, and I immediately passed that on to the goodwill thinking how old fashioned and superficial all of these ideas were.
Winning the age game doesn’t happen on the outside. It’s not all about youthful hair, makeup, clothes, and language. It happens from the inside. Our circumstances are we are getting older. The good news is every time I have a birthday, so does everyone else on this earth, and when I stop having birthdays that’s okay too.
In our youth focused society it can feel like grasping at straws to stay young. Trying the next rejuvenating lotion that promises less wrinkles and skin that bounces back like a baby, the next diet or juice cleanse that will keep you alive longer, the next facial peel, or lip injection to bring us back to how we thought we looked in our twenties? Really?
This is nothing new. We’ve heard all of this before. But I digress…. Our circumstances are we are all getting older. This is neutral. This is not said or experienced with anything but neutrality. It only becomes whatever it becomes because of the thoughts you are having around it. Your negative or positive thoughts around aging.
When I look back 30 years, I was 26 years old. Pregnant with my second child. Permed hair to match the big hair of the 80’s and big shoulder pads to go along with it. Wayne and I were in our first home figuring out work and putting a yard in. Finding people “just like us” to go on date nights with and play games with, raise our kids with.
At 26 I pretty much knew how to raise everyone’s teenagers and how to solve all of the parenting problems and the world problems I could see around me. This was the age I began to see my own parents as adults with passions and pursuits of their own. There was no cell phones or internet or any of that technology yet. Just a simple Atari game and a computer that took up a lot of desk space and boasted a 40 mb hard drive. It was pretty much a glorified typewriter with a small memory.
At 26 I began singing with my sisters and Mom as the Cole Collection. We would put on shows for office parties, summer parties, Christmas parties...family gatherings. We loved singing in three part harmony and enjoying our sound and the time spent together.
At 26 I never dreamed what the next thirty years had in store. I couldn’t have known we would end up with four sons and eventually adopt a baby girl when Wayne and I turned 40 to complete our family. I didn’t know I would rely on drugs to get me through depression. I couldn’t have seen the quick deaths of my mom, dad and Marcie all with in two years and the subsequent hole that was left in our family.
At 26 I didn’t know we would eventually move into our second home and then live here for the next 28 years. I couldn’t count all of the dogs we would love ( sometimes only tolerate) and lose. I didn’t know that two of my sons would come out as gay and the journey that would be in my faith and in the LGBTQ community. I didn’t know what exotic trips we would take; how work would go for Wayne; if I would teach again at Bountiful High School or teach online; what friends we would keep and which ones we would let go of. I didn’t know the health issues we would have. I didn’t know….but at 26 I had it all figured out and I had a hopeful future, so much to look forward to.
In thirty years I will be 86. The question I propose is, “What is happening between now and then that I will look back on with this same fondness; with opportunities for learning and growth?? I hope there are many. These next thirty years can be filled with excitement or stagnation. They can be a time of dreaming and growth or stubborn complacency. It all depends on my thoughts.
As we get older, we bring with us many things from our past. Experiences that were full of pain or negativity; failures and challenging times. The crazy part is, we now define ourselves and our future abilities by these past attempts. We had so many goals and dreams thirty years ago - run a marathon, make a million dollars, win a contest - and if they didn’t work out or come true we now have a tendency to just stop. To not set new goals or dreams because our past ones didn’t work out which just gives us evidence that our future ones won’t either.
Did we run that marathon? Then there is no way we can be a runner, a walker, or in shape now.
Did we become that millionaire? Really? I barely made $50,000 a year, there is no way I can be good with money, save money or earn more money now.
Did we win the bake off championship? I don’t even like to cook. Why would I learn a new skill now?
With all of these partly finished, no success at all or half baked past experiences we can become filled with regret and get discouraged about our future lives.
Let’s take an alternate approach to this and look at our past as if it were perfect. Let’s look at it as if there were no mistakes only opportunities for growth and lessons.
Didn’t run that marathon? I wasn’t supposed to run it, just prepare and practice for a while, make my knees hurt, and stop so I could appreciate good health and understand the process it takes to run a marathon.
Didn’t become a millionaire? I wasn’t supposed to. My lesson was all about learning how to do life with a little, to bargain shop or make do and be able to give to others along the way anyway.
Didn’t win the bake off? Nope, but at least I had fun, tried some new things, stepped out of my comfort zone and met amazing people along the way.
You can re-frame and learn from the past, but that’s it.
You can tell when someone is past focused because they’ll say things like “That’s just how I have always done it.” “That doesn’t work for me; I have tried it,” “I’ve had this issue my entire life.” “This is just how I am.” “I am not the kind of person who can do that.” “I’ve always been overweight, it’s just who I am.” “I am not a very good athlete.”
I hear this from people all of the time, but especially people over 50. It’s like saying that “ I am who I am and I’m not changing. No way, no how’” is a mindset and lifestyle that serves you, when actually it does just the opposite. It keeps you stuck in your ways and views about yourself.
A fixed mindset doesn’t allow any growth. No growth for 30, 40, 50 more years of life on this planet? That’s a very sad thought, and even sadder life.
It’s funny that many people are happier being defined by who they used to be without taking control of who they want to be.
The truth is you can’t go back. The past is over. For some of us, this is a blessing. The good news is that the future is yours for the taking ! There is no reason to argue with the past or wish it were different. The past happened exactly how it should have . You know why this is true? Because that’s how it happened. Arguing with it or wishing it was different somehow is a waste of emotional energy. As Byron Katie said,“When I argue with What Is, I lose, but only 100% of the time.”
Instead of all of the woulda, shoulda, coulda’s about the past which are really bringing us down, and aging us faster than tending twin two-year-olds, let’s look to the future! Let's take our energy and focus on our future-- something we can affect.
Get on a FREE mini session with me and let's make this work for you too.